An "Aha" Moment Brought to You by Brandi Carlile

Earlier this week, I was feeling stuck in the mud of life. I was looking back the way I came, obsessing over choices and mistakes, and felt unable to move forward.

Brandi Carlile, an artist who has a number for pretty much every one of my emotions, pretty well sums it up in her song, "Hard Way Home" from the Bear Creek album:

It's a thumping, rhythmic song, sown with percussion, handclaps, tambourine, piano and a slew of strings — the joyfulness of which creates tension when paired with the wistful message:

I sometimes lose my faith in luck
I don't know what I want to be when I grow up
I just count the rain
Wearing the floor through the boards again
I wish I could find a soul to steal
I could be the engine, you could be the wheel
And we could drive it home and never have to worry about being alone

If you've ever questioned yourself — your path, your ideas, your goals, your heart's desires, your faith — you'll know that it can be an exhausting process. You lose sleep. Talk it out. Experiment. Avoid. Distract. Immerse. Whichever your coping method, it can be a lot of circuitous motion.

Oooh, I follow my tracks
See all the times I should have turned back
Oooh, I wept alone
I know what it means to be on my own
Oooh, the things I've known
Looks like I'm taking the hard way home
Oooh, the seeds I've sown
Taking the hard way home

In my case, part of the struggle was coming to terms with my own personality. Do I accept it or fight it? Do I pick a different path to suit it or force myself into one that clashes with it? Am I even looking at it in the right way?

I never did learn how to follow the rules
I never was good at sleeping while the moon was full
I just lie and burn
Wreck my mind while the planet turns
I sometimes wish I could start again
I'd try and do the right thing every now and then
I'd step in line
That's what I'd do if I could turn back time

By the end of the day Tuesday, I was in an even worse place than when the day began.

I tell you how I want to live
Forget about the take
Forget about the give
I want to leave this town
Fake my death and never be found

Great attitude, huh? Well, that's just it. Later in the week, when I had finally just decided to just show up to life anyway and tackle the challenges thrown my way, an amazing transformation occurred. I found myself migrating from an "I'm done with this scene" attitude to one in which my obstacles became learning experiences, and no naysayers were going to hold me back.

The very next song on the Bear Creek album, "Raise Hell," spoke to me Friday, when I was able to look clear-eyed at my situation again. Though no circumstances had actually changed, I had gained a knock-'em-dead-despite-your-struggles attitude instead of a victim mindset.

I've been down with a broken heart
Since the day I learned to speak
The devil gave me a crooked start
When he gave me crooked feet
But Gabriel done came to me
And kissed me in my sleep
And I'll be singing like an angel
Until I'm six feet deep

I found myself an omen and I tattooed on a sign
I set my mind to wandering and I walk a broken line
You have a mind to keep me quiet
And although you can try
Better men have hit their knees
And bigger men have died

I'm gonna raise, raise hell
There's a story no one tells
You gotta raise, raise hell
Go on and ring that bell

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Adam said...

Very good post, and thank you for introducing me to this music.

I especially appreciated the part, "better men have hit their knees / and bigger men have died."

I love it when I discover a song that says something on my mind. One of the most memorable occurrences of this for me is "Strawberry Fields Forever." When I was 14 and feeling alienated, I needed to hear John Lennon sing "No one, I think, is in my tree / I mean it must be high or low / It's getting hard to be someone / But it all works out..."

Thanks for this post!

Rachel E. Watson said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

Unknown said...

Interesting looking at this from a different angle. So many of the obstacles *I* face that we were sorta' talking about relate to my urge to be the Brandi Carlile in this episode - the "soundtrack" to cushion people when they're down and bolster them when they're up, ya know.?. Hmm. Answers are elusive. Keep up the Good Work :)

Rachel E. Watson said...

That's a beautiful aspiration, Christian. I love that there are so many creative people in the world all trying to make beauty out of chaos, and we all go about it a little differently. I just read this article five minutes ago, "18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently," that I think speaks to that, and has much value for anyone trying to live a creative life.